Having reviewed a previous recording by the wonderful New York? Guitarist Nick Moran, I was more than excited to give his latest a spin. Like his previous CD The Messenger, this latest release No Time Like Now features a fine blend of traditional jazz alongside more modern sounding fare, bridging the gap nicely between jazz, rock, blues and funk.
The first hint of this occurs from the get-go, as Moran and crew take us on an improvisational journey through the classic Cream tune “Strange Brew”. This is not your grandfather’s classic rock cover as Moran, organist Brad Whitley and drummer Chris Benham open up the harmonic foundations with some sublime substitutions while surprisingly staying on-point with the tune’s original blues vibe. All three players get to shine on this funky reinterpretation with Whitley and Moran showcasing their notable chops over Benham’s funky swing. EC would be proud!
From the funkiness of “Slow Drive” and “Say Hi To Paris” to the sweetness of “My Beautiful” and “Natalya”, Moran covers a lot of musical ground mixing and matching sound and guitar styles. It is quite obvious that Moran does not like to be categorized or boxed into any one particular writing/playing style as the remainder of the tunes demonstrate. Don’t get me wrong though, Moran is a tried and true jazzer, and while his style seeks color from various genres, the bottom line is jazz improvisation through and through. It would appear that Whitley and Benham feel the same way, sharing a common purpose in providing each tune with a unique flavor, culled from the creative depths of Moran’s compositional ways, yet remain footed securely in the jazz tradition. “Intention” and the Night In Tunisia inspired “Renewal” should provide ample evidence of where all have been musically, while “The Physicist Transformed” and “Wishful Thinking” should give you a good sense of where they can go.
Given Moran’s proclivity for assorted musical tastes, he finds stylistic fulfillment with a variety of guitar tones ranging from clean and jazzy to slightly overdriven. His sound on “Slow Drive” for example is a mixture of Jimmy Nolan meets Albert King and Bill Frisell clean, while his tone on the more slower numbers reflects a warmer, full-bodied appreciation. And when Moran kicks on the overdrive, it is tastefully done with a clean overdrive that reminds me of Robben Ford. Sweet sustain indeed.
If you’re looking for shred or fast fingered guitar lines that are the same old-same old, Nick Moran is not your man. Moran’s playing style falls more inline with Bill Frisell, Steve Khan and John Scofield than the more traditional cats like Kessle, Pass or Bruce Foreman. His improvisational approach is melodic and thoughtful, paying close attention to the overall vibe of the tune along with the changes. For Moran, Whitley and Benham, the collective reading of each tune is just as important as their individual improvisational segments, creating a cohesive grouping of ideas and support that carries the tunes far beyond the printed page. A job well done!
I would definitely recommend this CD anyone interested in Jazz Guitar with a twist. And if you’re looking for Jazz Guitarists out of the ordinary, then definitely check out Nick Moran either on record or live. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.